Welcome to History Flight History Flight is a true non-profit charity in which 96% of donations go directly to pay for program costs to find and recover the 84,000 missing service members from America's wars of the 20th Century.
History Flight is a non-governmental organization dedicated to finding, recovering and repatriating America's war dead to American soil. Over the last ten years History Flight has sent over 100 search and recovery teams all over the world to locate loss sites of missing servicemen and to recover them. History Flight deployed cutting-edge, multi-disciplinary remote-sensing methodologies to find MIA loss sites where more than 500 American Servicemen are still missing.
As of the spring of 2019, History Flight is continuing our relentless search for WWII MIAs on several fronts - and although Tarawa has been a major focus, we have also been responsible for several recoveries in Europe. The biggest story by far, though, has been our unprecedented success in the central Pacific nation of Kiribati, where the battle of Tarawa was fought on the island of Betio in November 1943. More than 1,000 US Marines and sailors were killed during that 3-day battle, and more than 2,000 more were wounded. The dead were buried in several battlefield cemeteries on the island as the surviving fighting force moved on westward.
When the Army's Graves Registration Unit made its big push through the islands of the Pacific immediately following WWII, their attempts to recover the remains of more than 1,000 US dead on Tarawa were thwarted by the fact that the SeaBees' rapid reconstruction of the airfield on Betio following the battle effectively destroyed most of the surface evidence of the exact location of many battlefield cemeteries where the US dead were buried - temporarily, we thought. Between 1980 and History Flight's involvement in 2012, only five additional sets of remains were recovered and identified, from among the hundreds not yet recovered - and those not yet recovered had been listed as MIA - and unrecoverable - since the war. But since History Flight became involved, our teams, led by forensic anthropologists, have worked tirelessly and successfully to raise the total of Tarawa recoveries and identifications since the war to a milestone 100 recoveries.
Almost every week since History Flight began working on Tarawa, DPAA (the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency) has added new Tarawa identifications for which History Flight was primarily responsible - there, you can use "tarawa" as a search term to narrow down the list. Remains of these identified individuals have been repatriated - returned to their families for burial - some at Arlington, and some in family plots in their home towns. Next time you see a newspaper or TV announcement about a Marine's remains coming home from Tarawa, that's most likely due to History Flight's work!
You can read some of DPAA's press releases about Tarawa identifications for which History Flight was responsible on our"Press Releases" page.
The September 2015 issue of the Smithsonian Institution's "Air & Space" Magazine features an excellent article about History Flight and our MIA-search efforts. It focuses on our work in Belgium to recover remains of the American crew of a B-26 bomber, "Hunconscious." You can read a bit about that effort below, and you can read the Air & Space article here.
Caskets containing remains of Marines recovered by History Flight, newly arrived at Hickam from Tarawa,
awaiting final identification at the DPAA forensic lab.
We are proud to announce that crew members of Lt. William Parker Cook's B-26 (serial number 43-34430) have been identified and returned to their families. The recovery (read the detailed B-26 Recovery Report here) was the result of joint search and excavation work by History Flight, The 99th Division MIA project and then JPAC from 2011 to 2013. Way to go, to everyone who worked together on this successful project!
B-26 Crewmembers: 1Lt. William Cook, Flight Officer Arthur Lefavre, Sgt. Ward Swallwell, Sgt. Eric Honeyman, Sgt. Frank Lane, Jr.
History Flight is pleased to announce the identification of Captain Richard Vincent, whose remains we recovered on the Pacific island of Tarawa in June of 2013. Way to go, to everyone who worked together to make that operation a success! Here's a media report on the repatriation of Captain Vincent's remains in early July 2015. Interestingly, the article (and evidently DOD's press-release information) make no mention of the fact that History Flight was instrumental in the location, recovery, and identification of Captain Vincent's remains, or of the 31-page report that we prepared and submitted detailing his recovery and identification. But here's the thing: he's home.
In the last three years of active recovery work, History Flight has recovered at least 110 American individuals in the Pacific and seven in Europe, using state-of-the-art forensic archaeological recovery techniques. Here's a story about one of them - PFC Randolph Allen (left), recovered from Tarawa by History Flight in November 2013:
History Flight has recovered the remains of our people lying on the forest floor, under pig sties, from a battlefield tour guide's front porch, underwater, and in suburban neighborhoods. Many loss sites are imperiled by the rapid pace of human development across old battlefields.
At current rates of recovery of the missing, it would take the Deptartment of Defense over 1,300 years to recover America's missing war dead from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War. The 84,000 missing servicemen represent a humanitarian disaster for the families of the missing.
To help the families of the missing achieve the closure they deserve, vigorous public-private partnerships are critical to bringing home America's missing before all of the relatives of the deceased are themselves deceased.
It's important to note that there are broad, high-priority efforts underway, right now, at the highest levels of government, to improve the efficiency of existing government resources in the POW/MIA accounting community, and to add real, effective public-private partnerships to the resource mix in the ongoing effort to locate, recover, identify, and repatriate the remains of America's MIAs.
This first video clip below is from a briefing by SecDef Chuck Hagel, in which he discusses DoD's commitment to reorganizing current resources into an orgainzation that is both competent and efficient. The link below will take you to a video clip. Beneath the clip you will find transcript links that point to various spots during the briefing. You can start watching by clicking the 3:39 link, and go from there to at least the 11:00 point.
The next video clip is more to the point of History Flight's setting the example for public-private partnerships in the POW/MIA endeavor. The video is from a GAO review of the planned POW/MIA community's reorganization, with comments by Congressman Walter Jones to Mr. Lumpkin (to whom SecDef Hagel referred in the previous briefing) beginning at about the 1:29 point (that's one HOUR and 29 minutes into the session) and continuing to the end. You can grab the little slider button at the bottom of the video window and move it to the 1:29 point in the session, if you want to skip the period when everyone went to lunch. This is good stuff, and clearly shows how highly History Flight is regarded.
So what can YOU do?
YOU can support History Flight's Find the Fallen fund-raising campaign (see the link below to donate). A homeless veteran once donated $2.76 in pocket change. If he can do that, so can you!
YOU can volunteer. If you have special mission-critical skills, tell us about them or help organize fundraising teams in your neighborhood.
On Memorial Day, History Flight is
pleased to announce the repatriation of at least
40 USMC individuals recovered by the History
team (a team comprising both American and I Kiribati
members) in excavation work conducted between January
and May 2014. History Flight congratulates and
team members and supporters, our friends at the
Department of Defense from the Second Marine Division,
Veterans from the Second Marine Division Association,
The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, DPMO, and
MarForPac. Way to go, everyone!Here are a
few photos from our recently completed trip to Tarawa
with six survivors of that horriffic battle:
Team photo with vets at a Tarawa excavation site. May
The six Tarawa veterans who
came with us to New Zealand and Tarawa.
Behind them, the Second Marine Division
Honor Guard, the JPAC team
to fly the remains we recovered
back to The USA. 11 May 2014.
The honor guard, C130 crew, and History Flight team
leader SGT Glenn Prentice (left)
at the repatriation
ceremony on 11 May 2014.
The JPAC honor guard bringing the transfer case to the
C-130 on 11 May 2014.
MIA Search Summary
Although 2014 is shaping up to be better
than 2013, 2013 was the best year ever for History
Flight's MIA Search and Recovery program. The 1.35
million dollars that we raised and spent on MIA search
and recovery operations in Europe and the Pacific paid
some handsome dividends.
with our friends at the 99th Division MIA Project and
the Missing Aircrew research and Recovery team,
History Flight teams found and surveyed with remote
sensing methodologies, 35 US MIA loss sites in The
Netherlands, Germany, France and Belgium. Many of these
sites are slated for excavation in 2014 and will result
in more US MIA recoveries.
One of the 2013 Tarawa teams.
Working with our friends and contract partners at
Del Cuerto and Associates, Archaeo-Geophysical Associates,
Arborland Land Consultants, The Joint POW/MIA Accounting
Command, Pan-American Archaeological Consultants, Lindenwood
University and an incredible group of volunteers and
paid consultants, History Flight opened an office in
early 2013 on Betio Island on the Tarawa Atoll to support
our nine-year project to recover the missing Marines
from the battle of Tarawa.
History Flight's Tarawa
History Flight operated full-time excavation activity
on Tarawa for the entire year of 2013. The field work
was highly rewarding. The team recovered at least 61
American individuals, and many Japanese individuals
were also recovered. These remains were turned over
to our friends at JPAC on several occasions in 2013.
is the fourth C-130 that the DOD has sent
to repatriate American Remains found by History Flight.
Two JPAC teams also performed recovery operations
on sites that History Flight discovered on Tarawa in
2013, resulting in quality recovery of American Remains.
A number of our 2013 MIA recoveries have identifications
pending and will be announced this year. These identifications
were accomplished by JPAC in a very timely fashion.
Two American MIAs from our finds in 2012 were also
identified by JPAC in an impressively short time, and
they were interred at the wish of their next of kin
1st Lt Robert Fenstermacher
was interred at Arlington
CBS News also
did a story on our recovery efforts. History Flight feels that while their coverage on our
organization was very positive, their casting of our
relationship with JPAC in a competitive light was not
accurate or fair. Please refer to our public comment
on this subject below the news story:
2014 is already off to an outstanding start: we have
recovered at least 25 American individuals, and this
number is rising every day of our full-time field work.
We intend to operate full-time recovery work for all
costs us about $8,000 a day to run full-time recovery
When FDR founded the March of Dimes project that successfully
eradicated Polio, he asked everyone in America to send
the campaign a dime. While every public building in
America has a POW/MIA flag flying over it, the government
doesn't support the History Flight project, and only
a very select group of private citizens do. For the
cost of a six-pack of beer or a bag of potato chips.
you could help make the difference for the families
of missing service members who have never had proper
resources devoted to their case to fund their recovery.
Click here to donate a dollar—it'll
make you feel good!
MIA Search Summary
2012 was a great year for our privately
funded all-volunteer MIA search efforts. History Flight
ran seven different search teams in the Pacific and
in Europe and funded thousands of hours of research.
Excavations at three of our sites were brought to completion
with our partners in the 99th Division MIA project,
The Missing Aircrew
Research and Recovery team, The Air War Study
Group Rhine/Mosel, and our friends at The Joint POW/MIA
Accounting Command, remains of MIA crewmembers
of a B-26 bomber and a P-47 fighter were recovered
in Europe. Here are the reports:
The remains of a number
of missing US Marines were recovered from sites
that History Flight search teams located on Tarawa
Atoll, by a crack team of experts from the DOD's Joint
POW/MIA Accounting Command. Our six-year effort
to find missing Marines on Tarawa has cost
over $650,000, 12,000-plus volunteer man hours,
and personal hardship for dedicated team members,
but it has continually shown positive results. The
photo below was taken at a fall 2012 repatriation ceremony
on Tarawa, during which a transfer
case containing recovered remains was respectfully
loaded aboard a waiting C-130 for the trip back to
U.S. soil. It wasn't such a great distance across
the tarmac - but that distance spanned 69 years of
time since November 1943, when the promise was made
to bring Tarawa's fallen Marines home...
The hand-lettered sign
pictured below was placed at the main Tarawa cemetery
in November 1943 by Capt
Donald L. Jackson, USMC, as surviving Marines prepared
to move westward with the fleet and continue the
Pacific theater. Read the words carefully, and you'll
better understand why we continue to pursue not only
the lost graves of Tarawa, but those of fallen heroes
To you, who lie within this coral soil
We, who remain, pay tribute of a pledge
That dying, thou shalt surely not
Have died in vain.
That when again bright morning
dyes the sky
And waving fronds above shall
touch the rain
We give you this - that in those
We will remember
We lived and fought together - thou
And sought to keep the flick'ring torch
That all our loved ones might forever
The blessed warmth exceeding fire and
The everlasting scourge of bondsman's
Liberty and Light
When we with loving hands laid back
That was for moments short to couch
We did not bid a last and sad farewell
But only "Rest ye well."
Then with this humble, heartfelt
That pays thy many virtues small acclaim
We marked this spot and murm'ring
requiem, moved on to westward
Rest, warriors, rest
Against the day of journeying forth
Tender hands shall lift thee out
To home soil waiting.
Here's where you'll find
an album of photos from various History Flight MIA-search
missions conducted during 2012:
We would like to congratulate everyone who
participated in and contributed to this important work
on a job well done. 2012 was a great year for these recoveries and 2013
is going to
be even better. Way to go, everyone!
To Educate...To Honor...To Inspire
History Flight, Inc. - a 501c3 Non-Profit Foundation - 317 William St.- Fredericksburg, VA 22401
Copyright 2010 History Flight, Inc. All Rights Reserved.